DECATUR – Three years after the city's sweeping changes to its recycling program, the adoption rate far exceeds officials' initial hopes.
But there is still work to be done, and outreach efforts continue to try to expand the use even further, said Assistant City Manager Billy Tyus.
“The bins have been rolled out, and we're very pleased with the number of people who have gotten bins, and we're pleased with the fact that so many people are actually participating,” Tyus said Tuesday. “The thing we want to do now is look for ways to increase the tonnage of recyclable materials.”
As the Decatur City Council learned in a report at its Aug. 4 meeting, the tonnage has already increased substantially since 2011, when the city started its single-stream program. In 2013 alone, 7.8 million pounds of recyclables were collected, Tyus said. He compared the weight to 1,900 cars or eight and a half Boeing 747 airplanes.
Participation is much higher, too. About 15 percent of residents participated in recycling before the city moved to the more user-friendly single-stream method. As of last month, 57 percent were participating, far above the 30 percent that officials had hoped to enroll by 2025.
Tyus said the city and recycling firm Midwest Fiber will continue outreach efforts to help people understand how to use the service.
More than just advertising and marketing, those methods could include reaching out to kids in school, or even working with local businesses to mark materials such as take-home containers with a “recyclable” symbol.
There is also the possibility of expanding the program to apartments larger than six units, though that would happen well in the future, if at all. Those types of facilities may have their own commercial services, which sometimes include recycling, sometimes are part of national agreements, Tyus said.
“There are a lot of details that would have to be ironed out and discussed prior to our moving forward with that,” he said.
Businesses, also, typically have their own commercial accounts, Tyus said. Business owners are free to contact any local hauler or licensed recycler and ask about the possibility of providing recycling service.
“We're always looking for ways to make our program better, so if there are ways to serve other markets fairly and efficiently, we'll look into that, but it's not something that we're doing right now,” he said.
For more information about the city's recycling program, visit www.decaturrecycles.com or call (217) 424-2784.